Pixel City

Oh look, another blog about design and technology.

Mac mini disassembly notes

Just a few notes about taking apart an Intel Mac mini.

When you're taking out the corner screws, loosen one at a time and flip the Mini over to shake them out. One of them is longer than the others and it matters where it came from.

After you take the Airport antenna off its post, when you take the carriage out of the base, it may come loose from where it connects to the motherboard. Just let the shape of the cable be your guide to where it should connect to and then snap it back on when you're putting it back together.

And when you put it all back together, be sure to reconnect the little fan control cable, or else the fan will run on high all the time. :-)

Notes about Windows 7 on a 10.4 Mac with Virtual Box

  • Basic info is at ttp://www.tuaw.com/2009/05/10/installing-windows-7-rc1-on-your-mac-for-free/
  • You can use a Mac to download, but you must use Firefox (not Safari) to get it. It will use Firefox as a download manager.
  • It downloads pretty quickly. I got it in less than an hour. Depends on your Internet conection, of course, but at least MS has this hosted on a good server.
  • Along the way, you'll be given a key (serial number.) Print/save this number right away--the next time you click 'submit' or 'continue' or whatever it will take you to another page.
  • Get the 32-bit version
  • Good news--it's Windows 7 Ultimate!
  • It's a "Release Candidate Customer Preview" so it should be pretty close to what gets released in terms of performance, stability, and features.
  • Space needed: it's a 2.36 GB download, 4.96 GB installed into a VirtualBox disk image.
  • Very first thing: install the guest additions.
  • One down side: it may take some time to start up. On my 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro (which, to be fair, has been on for 44 days and has many apps and a ton of Safari windows open) it can easily take over 5 minutes. Once it's up and running, it's fine, but evidently it takes some time to read and boot from a 5 GB compressed disk image. :-)

One little thing: the lack of a Quick Launch bar sucks. Instead, you now "pin" items to the taskbar. You can't just drag a program or shortcut to the taskbar, you've got to launch it, then pin it. And the icons are spaced out--they have enough room between them to store a whole other icon. And they turn into the program, so if you click one, it gets wide--and consequently pushes the next one down. So if you've got a few, and you launch them all but the rightmost one, the rightmost one is now a few inches over. Or if you've got one, and open a few windows, it does the same thing. (I have 'group windows' turned off.) This is, of course, Microsoft trying to copy OS X's Dock and failing hugely. Also, if you want to, say, launch a second instance of Notepad, you can't--the 'launch' icon is now the program itself. So you've got to go to Notepad and make a new window. Except you can't. If you're in Notepad and you want to make a new document it asks "do you want to save changes?" and it will re-use the same window. But if you go to the Start menu and choose Notepad it'll open a new window. Same with Wordpad. Un... effing... real.

Safari 4 (Beta) notes

Random thoughts...

(Mostly negative, good things are in bold.)

Number one: tabs across the top? Don't like'em. The rationale you hear is "but that makes the URL box part of the page, which makes sense." But then it also makes the bookmarks bar a part of the page, which it isn't... so it's B.S. Why don't I like it? 1) I have no problem with the concept of the URL box. I've been on the WWW since 1995. I don't need any hints about what this box does. And for me, it makes perfect sense to see the tab directly connected to the page's content. 2) It looks cluttered. And when I want to grab the title bar to move a window, I now have to be careful where I grab it lest something undesirable happen. [Later] The more I use it, the more I dislike it. With a few cascaded windows open, and multiple tabs in each, it really looks messy.

Speaking of the URL bar, I like a standalone "reload" button, not a shrunken one tucked into the corner. Being a web developer I use the reload button a lot. And the "New bookmark" button being tacked onto the URL bar looks kind of ugly.

Other gripes about the new tab system: I prefer each tab to have a default width, getting skinnier as needed, rather than the new full-width/50%/33%/25%/20%/etc scheme it uses. Camino used to do that. (Maybe it still does, I don't know.) I didn't like it 5 years ago and I don't like it now. Left-aligned + standard widths = consistent placement == a good thing. The "lock" icon in https tabs also adds to the clutter, and I don't like the "close" button being hidden except for a) active tabs (which, strangely, includes the active tab in an inactive window) or when you hover. Hiding UI elements is almost never a good idea. Also: diagonal lines mean "resize," not "move."

Waah! I thought there was some kind of "tabposé" or CoverFlow feature for open windows/tabs but the only time you get the cool grid is for the main view. Which I hate. It's a waste waiting for it to load, and they move around based on usage, so what good is that? (Update: you can click 'edit' and then 'pin' certain sites so they don't move around.) Also: 12 sites, no matter how big or small your display is? Dumb. (Slightly less dumb: click 'edit' and you can change this to 6, 12, or 24.) In any case, I don't like this feature in Chrome and I don't like it here. As for CoverFlow in bookmarks and history... eh. I never use bookmarks, and when I'm looking at history, good text searching would probably be more useful. (Which it apparently has. I'll have to check that out.) And I like that you can set your history to be longer... mainly because (as far as I know) the "Restore All Windows From Last Session" option works on history. I've used it several times when a weeks-long browsing session ends and I've lost plenty of windows. (Unlike when I was using Saft, which always worked.)

Safari 4 is fast. But I still prefer an actual status bar to just a "something is happening" spinner. And, actually, speed has its price. I'd rather have a short delay and a nice page than the "jittery" effect you get with Safari's new way of drawing each DIV or TD as it gets it and then moving it a bit (sometimes repeatedly) as new content comes in. Opera works (or worked) this way and I never like it there either. Draw content in chunks and shift it as you need it... but not multiple times in less than one second.

I don't much care for the Awesome Bar in Firefox and I don't care for Safari aping it here. Their implementation of it is cleaner than FF or Chrome but I still prefer the old system better... especially since their algorithm for deciding how to order the sites (weighted based on frequency of visits and time since last visit, and the include bookmarks too) is great.

Happily most of what I don't like can be turned off in preferences or with the commands shown here.

Random software notes

Over the years I've amassed a collection of old software and machines. This is just my list of what runs well where and why, and occasional other notes about apps.

Written January 2009, updated December 2009, June 2010, September 2010, March 2011, November 11, 2014, September 28, 2015, and possibly other dates.

Overall, there is an interesting new matrix: some things require a new OS, some require Intel, some both. For example, some things will run on 10.4 but require Intel, some will run on 10.5 on either platform.

Also: EOLs. It interests me greatly to see when Apple in particular quits doing things for their old OSs. Safari tops out at 1.3 for 10.3 (abandoned long ago) and went up to 4 for 10.4. Safari 5 is 10.5-only, as is iTunes 10.

Mac OS X


LOL. I lost track of what I was writing and made TWO entries per OS for a while below. :-/

  • 10.0, 10.1, 10.2: run on any G3 with 128 MB RAM. 10.2 has Quartz Extreme. Safari is too old to run anything worthwhile. 10.2 is the last OS X that will run on a Beige G3.
    • 10.0: Came out early 2001, Brand new (compared to OS 9); UNIX/NeXT underpinnings, modern memory management and multitasking; barely worked. Selecting icons on the desktop caused second-long delays in UI response.
    • 10.1: Came out a few months later (late 2001), had some good, basic speed improvements. Still laggy but somewhat useable. No apps.
    • 10.2: Performance improvements, especially if you have a QuartzExtreme-capable video card. (16MB+, certain chipsets.) By this time, major Adobe apps are out (first Illustrator, then photoshop) and MS Office X.
    • 10.3: Brushed metal UI, sidebar, fast user switching
    • 10.4: Added Dashboard (meh) and Spotlight (guh)
    • 10.5: Added Time Machine (yay!), monochromatic home folder icons, small sidebar icons
    • 10.6: Intel-only. Not much else. Sold as "refinements", anyway.
  • 10.3 - Panther: requires a G3 with built-in USB (iMac, B/W G3). Had a nicely revised Finder (useful sidebars) and came with iChat A/V (a $29 upgrade to 10.2). Safari 1.3.2 is now (1/2009) almost worthless. The newest machines that shipped with it were Mac minis and early G5s.
  • 10.4 - Tiger: requires a G3 with built-in FireWire. (I.E., not some iMacs. Not sure about G3 PowerBooks.) I hate Spotlight. Can run Safari 3 or 4. First OS X for Intel Macs. Worked with Boot Camp Beta, but the beta period has expired.
  • 10.5 - Leopard: requires a G4/867 or better, DVD drive, 512 MB RAM. Time Machine and Quick Look make up for Spotlight, the crappy Dock, and the effed-up Finder sidebars. Comes with Boot Camp. iLife 09 requires 10.5.
  • 10.6 - Snow Leopard: For Intel Macs only. Exposé is better. If you try to eject a disk and it's in use, IT WILL TELL YOU WHAT IS USING IT. Other refinements. THE BEST OS X OF ALL TIME.
  • 10.7 - Lion: not much to say here. What was new, I didn't like (like the dumb angled pointer finger on the mouse cursor over links), and I only used it a bit. This was the release that dropped Rosetta (PowerPC emulation) completely.
  • 10.8 - Mountain Lion: THE LAST DECENT RELEASE OF OS X. Using this on my main Mac now. (miniserver2, 9/2013 maybe?) Some of what I don't like was new in 10.7. I think Notifications are new. I hate notifications. I did something to completely disable it on my main Mac. I don't even see the icon in the menu bar. Other Macs, I just set "quiet hours" to be 4am to 3am. iCal no longer generates neat little popups, so I use Outlook for basic reminders. iChat is gone; Messages blows. Luckily FSO students barely use iChat anymore, and even more so since Messaging was added to FSO 3.0 in mid-2014. At least Labels still work as they have since 10.2 or 10.3 - big, VISIBLE circus stripes.
  • 10.9 - Mavericks: The first free OS. THE FIRST HORRIBLE OS X. Never used this much. Some of what I don't like might have been in earlier version. (Released late 2013. I saw it previewed at Alt WWDC in SF.) LABELS are now TAGS and are TOTALLY USELESS. Tiny little dots AND it's hard to tell yellow from green. I guess I'll... just not use them anymore. Also, OPEN IN NEW WINDOW behavior is now broken (compared to the previous ~20 years of Mac OS)
  • 10.10 - Yosemite: EVEN WORSE. UGH. Hate this so much. Transparent CRAP from iOS 7 took over. Step 1: Turn off translucent effects. System font is Helvetica. Looks HORRIBLE on non-retina screens, especially they bolded app name in the menu bar. Spotlight is now FRONT AND CENTER for no good reason, AND it can not be moved from that location! AND it's huge and information-un-dense! So if you want to do a quick math problem, odds are it will COVER THE TEXT ON THE SCREEN THAT YOU'RE USING AS THE SOURCE FOR YOUR NUMBERS. QuickTime Player LOST a useful feature — it no longer plays audio if you click '>>' and watch at 2x, 4x, etc. Also, iMovie HD 6 will run on 10.9 but not on 10.10. Updated my HMH laptop and POOF, no more good iMovie. :-( :-( :-( Oh, and if you have a Finder window open and press command-F, it activates the search box in the CURRENT window instead of making a new window for you.
  • 10.11 - El Capitan - released late 2015. Haven't used yet. System font is now San Francisco. I can't imagine that it has one redeeming feature over 10.10. Oh, wait: I think they added the feature so that the Spotlight window can be moved.
  • 10.12 - Sierra: To be released late 2016. Having seen the *yawn* demos, there is literally not a single feature here that I care about. They keep doing crap like "now you can drag things into Mail!" and I think this is when they're adding iPad-like split-screen, etc. I don't even know and don't even care. My QUAD CORE (thankyouverymuch) Mini with 10.8 will (hopefully!) last me a long, long time.
    OH YEAH, they added Siri. More from apple.com/macos: "macOS [ugh] Sierra helps you rediscover your best photos, shop faster and more conveniently online, and work more seamlessly between devices. It can also help free up valuable storage space. Now your Mac does even more for you, so you can do more with your Mac." So yeah — NOTHING useful here.

0.7.1: First Universal binary (i.e., native on Intel)
~0.9.x: requires 10.5
0.9.4: last version for PPC

Safari - maxes out at 1.3.2 for 10.3. 10.4 goes up to 4, 10.5, and 10.6 get Safari 5. 10.5 is limited to 5.0.6. 5.1 (with "Downloads" as a popover list instead of a separate window) requires 10.6 (and, by extension, an Intel CPU.)

Firefox only goes to 2.x for 10.3 (12/2009 - I've only got one 10.3 Mac left. :-( ) and 3.6 or so for 10.4. Firefox 4 runs on 10.5 and newer.


  • Photoshop 7, Illustrator 10: First that ran natively in OS X. Great for single G4 (notebook, Mac mini). Photoshop 7 was the last version that could be used to edit pictures of US currency. http://www.google.com/search?q=photoshop+us+currency CS is kind of a pain when you work for a textbook publishing company and want to make a Math book.
  • Adobe CS: Good on a single G4
  • Adobe CS2: Good on a G5 or dual G4; no major compelling new features (for me, at least) over CS1.
  • Adobe CS3: First that ran natively on Intel. OK on a dual G5. I love CS3. Auto-align is awesome.
  • Adobe CS4: Rewritten in Flash. Never touch the stuff.
  • Adobe CS5: Will start using because I have to for work. (Update: Haven't! :-) )
  • Adobe CS5.5: Came out mid-2011.
  • Adobe CS 6: Came out at some point.
  • Adobe CC (Creative Cloud): Hooray, the day has finally come when it is IMPOSSIBLE to know EXACTLY what version of Photoshop someone is running. Started using @ FS late 2014. I started my survey in mid-January 2015.

MS Office

  • Office 97: Windows.
  • Office 98: required a 120 MHz PPC Mac, which was kind of a lot at the time. :-)
  • Office 2000: Windows.
  • Office 2001: Mac OS 9 (maybe 8 or 7, not sure.)
  • Office X: native for OS X; almost identical to 2001; my favorite of the bunch overall, other than only supporting 31-character filenames.
  • Office 2003: Windows. Yawnfest.
  • Office 2004: Some crappy defaults, like Page Setup view in Excel and formula warnings turned on everywhere; nothing that can't be worked around. Copy and paste works between Excel 2004 and Safari 2 or 3 in 10.4.
  • Office 2007: Windows. Introduced docx/xlsx/etc. and the Ribbon.
  • Office 2008: First version that runs natively on Intel Macs. Ribbon UI.


  • Parallels 1: I never used.
  • Parallels 2: 10.4 only. Won't run in 10.5. Runs W2K like a champ.
  • Parallels 3: Claimed to come with better 3D but wouldn't run any of the 4 or 5 old games I threw at it.
  • Parallels 4: Own, haven't used much. Runs a couple of my old games.
  • Parallels 5: Skipped this one.
  • Parallels 6: Have barely used 4, probably won't get this one. 4 runs in 10.6 so I can stick with it for a while. No need to move on unless it doesn't run in 10.7, which hasn't even been announced yet. (9/2010)

VirtualBox: Great, except that its performance extensions don't work in W2K--only XP and newer.


  • Win95: Great on ancient hardware, like a P100 with 32 MB RAM. Runs up to IE 5.5.
  • Win98: Great at 400 MHz/128 MB and up.
  • W2K: The finest OS Microsoft ever made. Stable and fast. Runs like a Swiss watch on a 1 GHz PIII. OK with 128 MB, great with 256. The first OS that ever ran an ATI capture card stably enough to actually CAPTURE VIDEO.
  • XP: Ugh. Only when needed. XP + P4 = death.
  • Vista: Ugh^2. I hear it's OK now. Other than the smallest amount of testing, I have no personal or professional reason to use it. They even screwed up Freecell, turning a nice, simple, clean, FAST game into a Vegas-esque nightmare of glows and other lame effects.
  • 7: apparently fixes problems (real and imagined) with Vista. I hate the new taskbar. I hear there's a way to fix it but I didn't find it in the digging I did. Luckily I've got XP at work, and XP at home as needed, usually in a VM. Update: OK, on 7 at work now. I can do exactly the bare minimum on it.
  • 8: Never used. I've literally never used a computer running this OS, other than MAYBE tapping on it at stores. But I don't even remember if that was the actual OS on like a Surface or just some generic Windows-whatever tablet. Well, I guess if it was Windows and not a phone, it was Windows 8. OK then, I've touched it. Like for 2 minutes at Office Depot.
  • 10: Haven't used yet.


  • iMovie 4: Works with a Sony DVMC DA1 or DA2. Captures in 2GB (9 minute 28 second) chunks. If you trim clips and empty the trash, it creates new, smaller clips and recovers the space. Takes a little time but it's GREAT on older systems with small hard drives. Only works in standard-def.
    • iMovie 4 will run with 10.4/Intel but not 10.5 PPC or 10.6/Intel.
  • iMovie 5 (aka iMovie HD): Doesn't work with a Sony DVMC DA1. Captures up to 1 hour at a time. DOES NOT reclaim space when you trim a clip--only if you delete one entirely. Introduced the ability to capture from an iSight.
  • iMovie 6: Not much different from iMovie 5. Runs natively on Intel. Was a free download from Apple (no longer available) if you had iMovie 8 and wanted to downgrade. 11/2014: Put 10.10 (Yosemite) onto my FS MBP. iMovie 6 ran under 10.9 but won't run under 10.10.
  • iMovie 8: Radically different from iMovie 6. Supposed to make most editing easier but only achieves that about half the time--many things, such as basic, precise editing, are now much harder.
  • iMovie 9: Fixes some things that were missing from iMovie 8, like precision editing. I sitll prefer the old style for the simple work I do.

iDVD: I had a G5 with 10.5 and iMovie 6 but I needed to make a DVD so I installed iDVD 5 from my iLife 05 disc (the first one I came across) and when I try to launch it, it tells me "You cannot use this version of the application iDVD.app with this version of Mac OS X." I ran Software Update to bring it up to 5.0.1 (the only update available) and it still doesn't work.

Google Chrome: Requires 10.5 and Intel.

Other than a few Finder bugs, and the fact that Safari got been left behind, my favorite setup for a long time was a dual G5 with 10.3.9, Adobe CS, and Office X.

Quicksilver vs. Spotlight

WOW it's been a long time since I've updated this. :-) And, sad to say, 10.5's Dock still sucks out loud. I found a new annoyance: the "Open in Finder" option shows up at the BOTTOM of a menu, so if you just want to open a folder that's in your Dock but you've got a lot of things in it, you have to click, scroll to the bottom of the list, THEN you can finally see the magic "View in Finder" option. But that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

I've seen a lot of articles about launching apps on a Mac and a lot of people, when hearing about QuickSilver, say "Well I just use Spotlight. Why use QuickSilver?" Here is my response.

First of all, let me concede that yes, QuickSilver is much more limited than Spotlight. QuickSilver is NOT a systemwide search tool. It is primarily an application launcher. (It also does many other things, but general search is not one of them.) This is strictly in response to people who say "Why use QuickSilver? Spotlight is good enough for me."

QuickSilver is much, much faster. Even on a new Mac, Spotlight can lag. On an "old" Mac (like my 2 GHz G5 with 1 GB RAM) Spotlight is painful. And I put "old" in quotes because by any measure, a machine with two 2 GHz CPUs and ONE GIGABYTE of memory SHOULD be fast. On anything with, say, a single G4 CPU (which is not necessarily all that old--my Mac mini is only 3 years old, and my friend's PowerBook G4 is just a bit older than that) using Spotlight is just absolute misery. Part of why it's fast is because it is searching through a small prebuilt catalog. Spotlight indexes your hard drive so it is searching through less data than the old (10.3 and earlier) "Find" which did a live search across the entire drive every time you called it. But it is still a big index. QuickSilver's is very small, so even if you just finished doing something disk-intensive, like working in iMovie for a while, QuickSilver launches fast. Even if it has to read its catalog off the disk, that loads in a second or two, and then the app is very responsive after that. Usually the catalog is small enough that it can be held in RAM forever and the interface comes up literally at the same moment you finish the key combination to invoke it. Compare that to Spotlight, which has to grind its way through a large catalog on disk, and if the disk is busy... forget about it.

Besides being faster to launch, QuickSilver is also faster to use because, unlike Spotlight, the first option is already selected. For example, in QuickSilver, if you want to launch Safari, you press (keyboard shortcut), SAFARI, enter. In Spotlight, it's (keyboard shortcut), SAFARI, down, enter. One extra keystroke. Not a lot, but why use 4 keystrokes when you can use 3?

Both can autocomplete--so Safari might come up as soon as you've gotten as far as SA--but QuickSilver LEARNS. "IC" might bring up iChat and iCal, but Spotlight will always list them in the same order, so you might have to go down a few times to get the one you really want. QuickSilver, on the other hand, gives more weight to things you use more often, to the point where your most common apps can be launched with a single letter--T for Terminal, S for Safari, etc. 

Besides LEARNING, QuickSilver is SMART to begin with. It recognizes initials and can search for letters ANYWHERE within an app's name. So it immediately suggests "Chicken of the VNC" if you type in "VNC", "Remote Desktop Connection" if you type in "RDC", and even "Photoshop" if you enter "PS". And like I said, it'll learn. If you decide you want to launch iTunes with NES, just do (keyboard shortcut) NES, find iTunes on the list, launch it, and the next time you type (keyboard shortcut) NES, iTunes will be at the top of the list.

There are also a lot of other things I like about QuickSilver, and it can do a TON more than I use it for. These are just the few high points of why it blows Spotlight out of the water. (Just google for "quicksilver tutorial" for lots of info and videos.) And it's free and open-source so it'll always be around and will never cost anything.

10.5's Dock still sucks

The Dock in 10.5 still sucks, even after the 10.5.2 update that brought back hierarchical folder menus.
Let us recap:

10.0-10.4: you drag a folder into the Dock.

  1. Its icon appears.
  2. If you click on it, it will open its Finder window.
  3. If you right-click on it, you will see its contents in a menu. This menu is left-justified, like all other easily-readable text in the known universe, next to a nice, straight, vertical column of small icons. Holding the mouse over any folder shows that folder's contents, and if there is a subfolder you can mouse over that to see its contents, etc. You can activate any item—program, document, or folder—by clicking on it.

Very nice, neat, and efficient. Useful features, few clicks, mouse motion is only required if you want to activate items or dig into subfolders.

10.5.2: you drag a folder to the Dock.

  1. The icon is from one of the things in the folder.
  2. If you click on it, you see a fan or stack, depending on how many things it has.
  3. If you right-click on it, you get a little menu with options.

Let's look these 3 things in a little more detail.


I prefer StuffIt over BOMArchiveHelper.app because StuffIt shows a status bar. Who cares if it's a little slower (which StuffIt seems to be), I prefer to know how long it's going to take. What's better: knowing it'll be a minute, or sitting there with NO clue for 50 seconds?

iPhone vs. iPod touch

Just wanted to jot down one thought while it's in my head.

The 4 GB iPhone costs $100 more than the 8 GB iPod. For that, you lose 4 GB, but you gain...

The iPhone needs...

The iPhone needs...

  • voice recording capability (to take notes while driving)
  • a scientific calculator (square root, sin/cos/tan, etc.)
  • the ability to shoot video
  • the ability to send MMS (text message + pic/video, for sending pics to friends who don't have email on their phone)

Anything else? Leave a comment below.

2007 WWDC Keynote notes

Just a few random notes re: things shown in the Keynote. This isn't commentary on every single point, just the ones that matter to me--mostly with regard to UI.